It’s odd to say the game wasn’t as close as the score in the NFC Championship game. A 37-20 gave some San Francisco 49ers a scare late, but it never felt like the Green Bay Packers presented enough of a threat to put the game in jeopardy. Here are five takeaways from the game.
The 49ers are faster than you
Raheem Mostert has been consistently one of the fastest running backs in the NFL this season per Next Gen Stats and the eye test. Mostert reached 15+ miles per hour on all four of his touchdowns Sunday. That was the case on 29% of his carries this season, which was third in the NFL and tied with Matt Breida. San Francisco, as an offense, had the second-fastest average top speed for ball carries during the regular season. They were a tenth behind Kansas City. It’s not limited to the offense, however. There were plays where it looked like the Packers would break a big play, but the hole would close in a blink of an eye. The defenses closing speed is second to none. The linebackers can fly, and a few plays Emmanuel Moseley made Sunday made me sit up straight in my chair. The team is smart and skilled, but the speed at every position adds a dimension that few teams can contend.
A glimpse of the ceiling
This season, the Niners “good” has generally been good enough. On Sunday, we saw a glimpse of what this team’s ceiling is. In the last couple of weeks, we have seen it. The perfectionist coach in me wanted Kyle Shanahan to go for it on fourth and short twice. I thought they were no-brainer decisions at the time that would have made a statement at that particular time in the game. San Francisco only missed two tackles against the Packers on defense. The offensive line paved the way for the running backs. We didn’t see any dropped passes or turnovers. The NFC Championship was the closest we’ve seen the Niners play to a perfect game, and we saw 85 catch the ball once. Which leads us to...
Versatility reigns supreme
We’ve seen it all year, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise, but the 49ers can win any way that’s necessary. Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown 27 times in two games. There’s no need to be concerned. If the offense was struggling to move the ball, then sure. The Niners have scored 64 points in back-to-back playoff games and averaged 5.7 yards per play, which includes almost a games worth of garbage time. You saw December, we know if Garoppolo has to, he can lead this team in a comeback scenario or out to a big lead. Defensively, the 49ers have been lights out. They’re healthy, and there are very few chinks in the armor. In the Super Bowl, they’ll need to continue the dominance. The versatility in which how this team can score is impressive. Minnesota was death by a thousand cuts; Green Bay was big play after big play. What will Kansas City be?
Usually, when a team has the type of speed, the 49ers do they’re built on finesse. That couldn’t be further from the truth with this team. Watching the defensive line manhandle the Packers was a sight to see. The 49ers finished with 42 solo tackles, and 20 of those were stops, which are tackles that constitute as a loss for the offense. It’s not just the twin towers in the middle. K’Waun Williams had three stops, as did Dre Greenlaw. Their aggressiveness catches offenses off guard. I don’t think offenses are ready for the physicality, and it shows. The 49ers give away a chain to the offensive lineman that dominates the most or did on Sunday anyway. The team photographer Kym gave it out and asked me who should get it. My answer changed from Mike McGlinchey to Laken Tomlinson, and I settled on Joe Staley by the end of the game. They were all awesome, but the way the offensive line set the tone may have been more impressive what the defensive line has done the past two weeks.
Shanahan’s time is now
The head ball coach is on a mission. When Shanahan called a trap on 3rd & 6, and Mostert took it to the house, that’s when I knew. You don’t call that play in that situation unless you know it’s going to pop for a big gain. Mike Pettine was a dog chasing its tail on Sunday. Zero clue what was coming next, and it seems like he was just picking random plays in hopes of stopping San Francisco’s offense. While people talk about the number of pass attempts, we should be focusing on the different wrinkles in the run game and how two weeks in a row both playoff teams haven’t come close to finding an answer. It’s more impressive to win in dominating, run-it-down-your-throat fashion than it is seeing Jimmy throw it around 40 times. It feels like Shanahan is in a zone and can’t be stopped.